Ninja Thought Experiment #5

Life is good. You finally did it! You pulled the plug on your day job after reaching financial independence. You never have to work for money ever again. But, you’re bored. You need something to do… You need a project! You grab a piece of paper and a pen and start thinking. Now that you’re financially free, what projects do you want to complete? However ambitious, however small, you now have the time to pursue anything that you like, what will you accomplish?

I started writing this post some time ago and then I happened to be watching Mr Money Mustache’s new YouTube channel and in episode four he said the following:

When you are retired you are the same person, it’s just that the work part goes away. The question is what are you filling your days with now, outside of work i.e. what are you doing on the weekend? If you can get a good weekend package then that is just going to expand to be your full-time life when you retire. He went on to say, you should plan your post-retirement life around these five factors:

  • Outdoors
  • Social
  • Physical
  • Generous
  • Challenge

As I cannot dispute that MMM knows what he is talking about when it comes to early retirement I thought that thinking about each of these points would be a good way to answer this challenge.

So here we go…

Spend more time in the garden

Outdoors

At home I would have more time for the garden. As I write we are only just developing our garden. By the time we retire it will hopefully have matured. Not working would give me more time to grow vegetables all year round. I would love to be able to open it for the National Gardens Scheme. Several houses in the village do this and I would like to be able to join them at some point.

I have recently considered selling some produce from the garden. A couple of years ago we had loads of courgettes, just too many to eat, and I put them in a box outside the house with a notice telling passers by to help themselves. I expect I could have made some money selling them. Mr Simple makes jam, as we have fruit bushes in the garden, so maybe he could do a bit more of that. Eventually we could have a permanent stall outside the house. It wouldn’t make a fortune, but it would be fun.

Social

I belong to a couple of social groups in the village where I live. Quite a few of the members are retired and go out together on weekdays. Obviously I can rarely go along as I am in work. I would therefore be able to be a much more active member of these groups.

My main social interaction is though, sadly to say, on line. Probably because I find that I have a lot more in common with people whose blogs I read than I do with some of my friends. Sad, I know, but the truth. At the moment I struggle to find enough time in the day to post on Twitter, so I would have more time for this and other social media.

Physical

The joys of hiking

You’ll hopefully remember from my staycation posts that Mr Simple and I enjoy walking. In fact, we met through a young ramblers group. We used to go walking every Sunday. Since we have moved house weekends have been taken up with chores and DIY. If we didn’t have to work we would have time again for walking. We also have bicycles, which spend most of the time in the garage. We live in a rural area with lots of lanes to explore and so cycling would definitely be on the agenda.

Generous

Before I had a full-time job, which wasn’t until my early thirties, I used to spend a lot of my spare time volunteering for an international charity. My current job involves helping people, but it’s more about decision-making than hands-on helping. I think that once I don’t have to work for money I would want to do more direct helping work. I know that there are lots of charities and I am sure that I could find something to do, maybe just once a week or once a fortnight.

More time for reading self-help books

Challenge

I would probably need some mental stimulation, as currently the main way that I get that is via work, but also through reading all those great FIRE blogs and self-help books. Over the past few years I have learnt some French and Italian. Many classes are held in the day time and so weren’t available to me. My French evening class involved not getting home one night a week until 10pm, which for someone who is a morning person I found really difficult. It was also hard to maintain concentration after a day’s work. A daytime class would still enable me to get home at a reasonable hour. I would also have plenty of time for homework and to meet up with classmates to practise what we had learnt.

So, I am not sure whether I have answered Saving Ninja’s question, as technically none of these are projects. They are though things with which I like to fill my time, or with which I would like to fill more of my time if I didn’t have to work for money. They are I suppose ‘a simple life’, which is what I want my life to be.

How do you fill your weekends?

What did you used to do before you started that well-paid, but stressful job, before you bought that big house which needs lots of cleaning and decorating, or before you had kids?

What would you fill your time with if your whole life was just one long weekend?

Other thoughts:

Saving Ninja

Cashflow Cop

Ditch the Cave

Merely Curious

A Way to Less

in-deed-a-bly

Gentleman’s Family Finances

Marc @ Finance Your Fire

Dr Fire

The Fire Shrink

Young FI Guy

Advantages of the Public Sector

I have just finished ‘Financial Freedom’ by Grant Sabatier. Like many other financial independence bloggers he recommends ‘hacking your 9-5’. Often this involves asking your boss for a rise. If, like me, you work in the public sector, this is not an option. The only way of getting more money is to apply for another position, doing something different. Alternatively, you could move to another organisation or leave the public sector altogether. Neither of those are options that I want to consider, so I’m probably going to be where I am until I retire.

This post is therefore about what I see as the benefits of my job and how I can make the most of them. If you also work in the public sector I hope that it may give you some ideas about how to take advantage of your 9-5 benefits on your way to FIRE.  

Remote working makes the commute a distant memory

Working at home

This is not possible every day as my responsibilities involve visiting people and attending meetings, but very often, if I am just sitting at a computer, then it is at home. Working at home equals no commute. In the morning I therefore have plenty of time for reading, exercise, meditation and breakfast – all of the things that I like to do before starting my work day. If I get up at 6am, which I have been doing recently, despite Mr Simple’s complaining, then I have three whole hours to myself before I have to start work – a luxury.

Many jobs could be done at home, but often it is the mindset of the organisation that prevents this. Strangely it seems that being seen sitting at one’s desk is regarded as a measure that one is being productive, whereas in my experience trying to get work done in a busy office is a challenge. I tick off more of my to-do list at home, even if I take breaks occasionally to hang up the washing or answer the door when a parcel is delivered.

I believe that it is always worth asking the question. The worst that can happen is that they say no. Even working at home one day a week can give you some extra precious hours. Then it’s up to you how you spend them – exercising, reading a good book or working on your side hustle.

Car allowance

I feel frustration when I hear time and again the suggestion that in order to get to FI quicker you need to move nearer work and get rid of your car. Even if I moved to within a mile of my office I would still need a car as my job involves visiting members of the public. The necessity of having a car is reflected in the receipt of a monthly allowance and a good mileage rate. I don’t ringfence this allowance for sole allocation to car costs, but if I did, over several years it would make up the large part of a new (well new to me) vehicle.

Pension

I have a defined benefit pension which I can take from aged 55. Due to having not had a full-time job until I was 32 my pension pot isn’t enormous, but DB pensions seem to be few and far between, so I need to count myself very lucky. My employer also contributes much more to my pension than I do.

Take advantage of being able to plan your own diary

Managing my diary myself

A lot of the time I get to choose what I do on what days. I plan my supermarket shopping day when I pass through the nearest fair-sized town. This means that I don’t make a special journey in order to do the shopping. Sometimes I do the shopping over my lunch hour if I have time between visits. This means that I am not battling the rest of the population at the checkout at 6pm.

Generous annual leave

I have been amazed to read American FI blogs stating that in the US workers only get two weeks of annual leave as I get six. It’s so many that I don’t always get around to taking them all, particularly as we are trying to save money on holidays. An idea came to me when thinking about how best to use my allowance and I thought that maybe I could book the occasional day off to work on a side hustle or my blog or any other way that I can think of to make money. So if you get plenty of annual leave how could you use some of those days to help you get closer to your goals?

Hopefully that’s given you some ideas to chew over if you also work in the public sector.

I’m sure that there are plenty of others so please feel free to comment and let me know what they are.

I would love to hear your ideas.

An Absence of Obligations


It has been difficult this week getting back in to work. I am lucky enough to have a job that I really enjoy, even though it can be stressful at times. I am good at turning my work phone off and completely shutting off from work when I am on leave. I did check my emails on Sunday afternoon just to see what I would be returning to on Monday morning and I felt an absence of any enthusiasm for getting back work.

On Monday morning Mr Simple was sitting at the breakfast table looking as though he completely lacked any interest for the day ahead. When I asked him if he was struggling to get going after our staycation he said that it had been nice last week not having any obligations.

I think that the difference between our staycation and our usual holidays is that when you are away you know that it is not reality, you are staying somewhere different, often having meals out every day and it is quite clearly not the norm. Last week, on the other hand, featured a lot of our usual life – the same environment, eating out at our favourite restaurant and visiting places on our doorstep.

On some FIRE blogs I have come across the suggestion of taking mini-retirements, a few months off from work in order to practise being retired. From my perspective I had always seen this as something that wasn’t possible. I can’t just take a few months off work as my employer doesn’t allow it, so practising what having achieved FIRE would look like has not been on my radar. Looking back at our staycation I can see that it was a ‘mini’ mini-retirement. A glimpse of what life could be like if we didn’t have to go to work, or as Mr Simple put it, if we didn’t have any obligations. I think that this is why I have struggled getting back into work, as it involves doing things that I don’t want to do, which to some extent everyone’s working life contains.

On Monday I almost wished that I had never discovered the FIRE movement. Before, I was just ticking along nicely, planning to retire maybe at 60, not realising that anything else was possible. I almost felt resentment about having to work, which is a shame, because, as I say, on the whole I enjoy what I do.

Our main aim is to pay off our mortgage, which I know not everyone agrees with, but that is what we want to achieve. Any other objectives have to date been quite vague, but having had a taste of the good life has made me more determined to consider exactly what we are striving towards. As Stephen Covey says, ‘begin with the end in mind’. We need to know our destination before we make a plan as to how we are going to get there. So that’s my challenge to myself over the next few months, to get a clear picture of what our ideal life would be like and then draw up a roadmap of how we are going to get there.

So have you tried a staycation or a mini-retirement? If so, how did it feel when you didn’t have those usual obligations? I would love to hear. If you haven’t tried it, how about having a staycation over the next few months to get a taster of what life could look like at the end of your FIRE journey.

Staycation – a review


This week has shown us that it is possible to have a holiday ‘at home’, but you have to be disciplined. There is a temptation to catch up on outstanding chores and so you have to make an effort to act as though you aren’t at home.

Walking

If enjoying the outdoors is your thing then it is very easy to have a cheap and even free staycation. We enjoy walking, in fact, Mr Simple and I met through a young walkers’ group. I wonder if you realise how lucky we are in Britain to have such great access to our countryside. We are Francophiles and love going across the channel on holiday each year, but quite a few years ago we gave up trying to hike there and now take our bikes with us, as they are a much better way of exploring the countryside. Although there are some waymarked paths, any circular route often involves a lot of road walking and not always on quiet lanes. Until last year I believed that this was just true of France, but in May 2018 we spent ten days in Ireland with a view to enjoying the amazing Irish landscape, in particular the west coast. Sadly we discovered that there is even less access to the countryside in Ireland than there is in France. We spent most of our time walking along roads, with only short sections through fields. It was so frustrating – amazing scenery, but we could only enjoy the view of the mountain from the road, rather than from the top of another mountain. I have therefore learnt not to take our footpaths for granted.

We do not live in a popular walking area and yet there are footpaths everywhere and we have enjoyed some of them this week. I would definitely encourage you to buy yourself an ordnance survey map of where you live and go out and discover what is on your doorstep. Maybe wait until the weather is a bit better, but then pack a picnic and go off exploring. You may be surprised at what you find. You don’t even need a car, but can walk from the house or catch a train or bus and walk back home.

Cycling

As I said above, we often cycle in France, but we have also used our bikes a couple of times since we moved here. For me it is more of a sunny day activity, but again if you already have a bike it is a free activity that the whole family can enjoy.

Wildlife

If you’ve been reading my posts this week you will have seen that we are birdwatchers. Now we are not fanatics – those people who travel miles to see the latest unusual feathered sighting, but we do enjoy sitting in a bird hide with our sandwiches and a flask of coffee and waiting to see what turns up. Although we went to Slimbridge this week, which charges an entrance fee, there are many RSPB sites which do not charge and most probably one near you.

Museums

We spent one morning in a local museum, many of which are free nowadays. I could have done some more research on this and found other attractions to visit, but whenever we have a holiday our main activity tends to be walking. It would also probably be easier to find places to visit after Easter as many sites tend to be closed over the winter season.

Eating Out

Since I have discovered FIRE our change of lifestyle has made going out for meal a less frequent occurrence and so it has been a real treat to be able to do so this week. As we weren’t paying for accommodation I felt less guilty about spending money on a nice meal, as it was so much less than renting a cottage would have cost us, and then we would also have paid for some meals out on top of that. I have also realised that most of the time I do prefer home cooked food. My preference is to eat fewer carbs than most people and much of what is offered on lunch menus is carb heavy – sandwiches, wraps, baked potatoes and chips. During our next staycation, and I am sure that there will be a next one, I think that I might just treat us to some nice things from Waitrose – where we used to shop before we started our FI journey. We can then add those to our picnics or evening meals.

I hope that you have enjoyed my little updates and that it has given you some ideas of how to ‘holiday at home’.

Staycation Day Six – carpets and curry

The weather has been against us for much of the week and it was no different today, in fact it has been pretty miserable all day. With this in mind we had already decided that we would go out for lunch to our favourite restaurant, which is an Indian. Rather than your typical Indian, where most people would go at the end of a night out, this is more like a nice restaurant which happens to serve food from southern India.

I didn’t have any particular plans for this morning, but Mr Simple suggested going to look at carpets for the spare bedroom that he has been decorating. Never one to turn down moving forward on the house renovation I quickly agreed and so we went, in the opposite direction to the restaurant to look at carpet and after popping back home for a quick coffee, battled the elements yet again in order to get to the restaurant.

Lunch was lovely as always and we took our time. We are great fans of a leisurely lunch, like the French do, rather than a heavy meal in the evening. The best part was that they were doing a special offer – 25% off the menu at lunch time. We therefore saved over £16!

We have been very lazy this afternoon, catching up on a Skandi drama with the woodburner going.

And that’s it, staycation over. We could extend it into the weekend, but it’s going to be a wet one, particularly tomorrow, so we will probably just resort to our usual routine of chores and DIY.